Part romantic drama, part creature feature, ‘After Midnight’ does its damnedest to avoid being categorised; that said, for this reviewer it clearly sits in the ‘not for me’ category.
Having said that, it’s really not a bad film; I just don’t think it work as well as it thinks it does.
The plot follows heartbroken Hank, who, after enjoying an idyllic relationship with his long-time girlfriend Abbey, wakes up one morning to find her gone and a cryptic note in her place. Struggling to come to terms with his recent abandonment, things are only made worse as he now finds himself stalked by a monster who attempts to invade his home every night.
The film itself starts well, sitting on the fence a little with where it sits in terms of its direction, is it creature flick with a bit of drama, or is it drama with a light dusting of creature?
At first, it does the job, giving each element equal amounts of screen time. The drama side of things is handled through flashbacks – strongly biased from Hank’s perspective to have been perfect interactions between himself and Abby, as well as some interactions with his closest friends, a police officer (who is also Abbey’s brother) and Wade, who offers up some comic relief. In terms of the monster, well these scenes are pretty effective, you don’t see a lot, as most of the sequences are shot from Hank’s side of the crudely barricaded front door, but the little we do see of the reptilian-esk creature does enough of a job to keep the intrigue alive.
The acting is strong, albeit the bulk of the screen-time is handled by Jeremy Gardner’s ‘Hank’, who is also one of the films writers; but the other cast play their respective parts well when they need to. The writing in the film is tight in the first half and whilst it relies on the viewer’s investment in its emotional storytelling, it just gets on with it, even though admittedly, not a lot happens.
It does enough to make you feel for Hank, to a degree, as just as his delusions now regarding monsters, we see little subtleties in the flashbacks which show that things were perhaps not quite as perfect as he remembers them to be – specifically from Abbey’s perspective. His character goes through the motions of grief, relying on alcoholism and isolation to ‘deal’ with his loss – and it works, you really feel for the guy.
See for me, the whole effectiveness of the film hinged on two things. Firstly, the monster – is it real or just metaphor? and then the whole mystery of Abbey’s disappearance. Both requiring an equally satisfying conclusion.
However, around 45-50 minutes in the film just stalls. Abbey’s disappearance is resolved as bluntly and as quickly as it occurred in the first instance, and the reason, as mundane as you could write and Hank’s monster, well let’s just say, rather than it being a clever psychological metaphor of loss and grief, the monster seems to become as much a barrier for the films writers as it was for poor Hank – made worse for the fact that there is a turning point not all that late in the film which makes its presence completely redundant.
From here things just unravelled. The conversations moved beyond witty, to plain boring, and then all these other bullshit sequences started to make their way in which didn’t seem to add anything – like characters singing karaoke for the best part of 5 minutes, montages which offer more of what we saw in the films earlier sequences accompanied by a clichéd indie rock soundtrack. Then there’s the ending, which I can only assume was supposed to make something of an impact, but the more I thought about it, the more it undermined the rest of the film.
There was very little closure on the monster mystery either. I honestly either missed something essential, or I was seriously short changed.
Overall, despite my reservations, I can see a lot of people loving this movie, those people that get ‘something more’ from such genre bending titles; and don’t get me wrong, I also like a few eclectic ideas in the odd title to! But for me this did neither the ‘emotive drama’ all that well (well certainly not 90 minutes of it anyhow), nor the ‘creature horror’, but your millage may vary.